For antique and vintage clock repair having a selection of good quality tools is absolutely essential.

I am not a formally trained clock-maker but as avid enthusiast and a keen learner over the past 5 years I have been steadily building my knowledge of clock repair. During that time I have invested in a number of tools and pieces of equipment.

Part I of this two-part series describes the basic tools for those just starting out. The tools/equipment that are described here are for the more advanced hobbyist/amateur horologist.

Some folks bush by hand and I applaud them for their patience and skill. I chose a bushing machine

Ultrasonic Cleaner: This Harbor Freight special will do for now but it is so low powered that a newer, more powerful machine is on the horizon. It cleans but it does not perform as well as better quality machines and it has a limited capacity. An eight minute limit for each cycle means that several cycles are required to properly clean clock parts. It is a start, nonetheless.

Ultrasonic cleaner
Ultrasonic cleaner

Spring winder: An essential tool. Taking a clock apart includes servicing the mainsprings. Mainsprings must be inspected for breaks, cracks and splits, cleaned of old oil and rust and lubricated prior to re-installing them into the movement. There are those that say that any rust on a spring means that it should be replaced. You be the judge. I generally do not replace springs in a movement unless they are quite set, or have breaks or cracks. I have found that the steel in the original movement is better quality than can be found today. Mounting the spring winder on a piece of hardwood provides a stable tool and allows it to be clamped to a work-desk.

Although there are other types of spring winders, the Olie Baker winder is one of the better choices in my view. It is well made and should last for years.

For those wishing to save a little money, Joe Collins has plans for a homemade spring winder that you can find on the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors site.

Mainspring contained in a clamp
Mainspring contained in a clamp
Mainspring servicing
Mainspring servicing; taking the clamp off to inspect and service the mainspring
Mainspring barrel
Mainspring barrels require collars supplied with the Olie Baker spring winder

Bergeon 6200 Bushing Machine: Some folks bush by hand and they are to be applauded for their patience and skill. I chose a bushing machine for the delicate work of installing bushings. This is the Bergeon 6200 which is made in Switzerland. It is exceptionally well made and relatively simple to use.

Chucks and reamers
Chucks and reamers

The machine can be bought separately or with a set of cutters and other hardware (above). There are stories of the cutters lasting 15 years or more from clock-makers who use them regularly. Of course, you must also have an assortment of correctly sized brass bushings that you purchase separately from any clock supply house.

To operate, a correct size cutter is placed in the bottom end of the steel shaft, holes are cut after which the new bushings are punched in place with a hammer head fitted to the shaft.

Bergeon Bushing Machine
Bergeon Bushing Machine
Punching the bushing home
Pressing the brass bushing into the drilled pivot hole
Six bushings on back plate
Six new bushings on the back plate of a Sessions Westminster A mantel clock
Clock repair is not as expensive as some might think especially when you spread your costs over months or years

Lathe: Good quality mini lathe are available from Sherline, Taig and others. A cost effective option is the Taig Miniature Lathe for metal. The Taig lathe was originally designed for precision machining of watch and clock parts; ideal for clock repair applications. The small office space in my home means that its compactness, portability and relative simplicity are attractive features.

Taig lathe with 1/4 hp motor
Taig lathe with 1/4 hp Marathon motor

Reference/Reading material: I recommend the Steven Conover series of repair manuals. The manuals are well written, detailed and are great resources for the beginner or the advanced amateur.

  • Steven G. Conover; Clock Repair Basics
  • Steven G. Conover; Striking Clock Repair Guide
  • Steven G. Conover; Chime Clock Repair

To summarize the purchase of clock supplies and equipment here is my personal journey. First, I acquired some basic clock repair tools when I began taking movements apart, then learned what was needed next and steadily built up my collection of tools and equipment.

Three years ago my first major purchase about was the Olie Baker spring winder. Some months later came a Bergeon bushing machine complete with cutters and a supply of bushings and then, recently my Taig mini with accessories. A mini lathe will allow me to advance my skills in clock repair, to polish and burnish pivots correctly and to replace worn or damaged pivots and so on. At this point I have just about everything I require but no doubt as future challenges arise I will be searching out more specialized tools and equipment.

Set aside a specific goal, research your needs, build your tools and equipment acquisitions gradually and apply a reasonable budget. You will find that clock repair is not as expensive as you might think especially when the costs are spread over months or years.

Hope you found this interesting. If you have a tool or piece of equipment that you feel is absolutely indispensable, let me know.